Take Paint Off of Models





Introduction: Take Paint Off of Models

About: I am a student in Seattle, WA My Tumblr https://www.tumblr.com/blog/weeklyclaypokemon
This article shows how to take paint off of old models so that you can repaint them. You might want to do this if you buy used painted models and want to paint them yourself.  If you want to sell them, taking the paint off and priming the models can make them look more appealing.  
I did this because I had bought some painted models from a friend that I wanted to repaint. I was lucky and the models were not primed, as this makes the process more difficult. I also had some Tau models that I had painted about 4 years ago, and wanted to paint them again. I couldn't just paint over the old paint because when I had first painted the models I used way too much paint.  The first coat of paint had filled all of the cracks in the model and obscured most of the detail. 

Step 1: Materials

  • Simple Green all-purpose cleaner
  • old toothbrush
  • toothpicks
  • a tub for water
Other cleaners and chemicals also work, but simple green will not damage the model

Step 2: Soak the Models in Simple Green

If you have time to let the model soak for a while, mix the simple green with water. 
I needed about 750ml of cleaner to cover half of my tank, because I could flip it and soak again.  I used a ratio of water to cleaner of 2:1.  The soak time estimates in this guide are using this mixture. Soak the models in a tub or bowl that you dont care about.

 Completely submerge you models in the cleaner for about 24 hours.  The longer the models soak the easier the paint comes off.  You will be able to scrape the paint off after only 3-4 hours, but it will be much easier after 24 hours. Leaving the models in for too long should not harm them. I left a few in for 2 weeks to make sure, and they are fine. Simple green also weakens dried super glue. Any "green stuff" will easily come off after soaking.  The picture below is after soaking before any scrubbing. I wrapped the tub in plastic wrap so the simple green wouldn't smell as much.

Scrub the models right after they come out of the cleaner mixture. 

Step 3: Scrub the Model

First use an old toothbrush to get the majority of the paint off of your model, occasionally rinsing the model in a tub of water. Don't work at this step for too long, just get most of the paint on the exposed faces off. The first picture is after about a minute of scrubbing. 

Don't leave the models out of the cleaner mixture before taking all of the paint off. The paint will dry back onto the model after a few hours. 

Step 4: Pick at the Model

This part can take a while. Just scrape at the model with a toothpick until it gets too dull. On the four models you see below I spent about 2 hours picking at scraping and picking at them. Its time consuming but easy. It can be done while listening to music or watching a movie( LOTR in my case).  Focus on the areas where the paint really covers up the model's detail. You can use pins or needles instead of toothpicks, but they can scratch the models. 

Step 5: Your Done!

You can now repaint the models (see below), or sell them for much more than you could a model covered in paint.

If you want to go one step further you can also take apart some models. While simple green helps, I found that putting models in the freezer really helps with taking apart models made of metal. The glue becomes brittle and the model easily comes apart. I also tried this with plastic models, but im not sure if the weakened glue was from the simple green or the freezer.



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    Sweet! So helpful. Thanks.

    I don't have Simple Green with me but I do have Mr. Muscle floor cleaner? Will this also work?

    I'm fairly new to the "model" hobby, so I'm looking for advice. I tracked down a Maisto model of a Ducati motorcycle that I wanted to paint to match a comicbook character, and I've never painted anything with so fine of detail. Assuming the bike is 3D printed in a factory with all the specialty paints, would you suggest I use this method to take all the paint off and work from scratch, or just mask off certain areas and paint on top of the existing finish? It's a little easier because the bulk of the fairing can be removed like on a real bike, but I didn't know if I should chance painting it without removing the existing. I'm wanting to make it purple and the only model came in a bright red.

    I've used Simple Green with (mostly) great success. I've found that some primers can be resistant to SG, though. For those, I recommend "Super Clean." It comes in a purple jug and you can get it at Wal-Mart or Menards really cheap. It's a bit stronger than SG, so wear gloves.

    I knew this was possible, but it's great to see it in the form of an Instructable. This would likely also work to remove the paint from any plastic model that had been printed from a 3D printer and painted.

    would it be possible to use a stiffer brush (either stiffer synthetic bristles or possible a softer metal like brass) to scrub the model instead of manually picking at it for hours with a toothpick in step 4 .. or do you think that would damage the model?

    2 replies

    This depends on what the model is made of. Plastic and metal brushes do not get along. A white metal model should have no trouble, but you could also use a "hotter" solvent, such as mineral spirits or lacquer thinner (which removes almost any paint.)

    Resin models *should* be impervious to almost any solvent, too. The one you have to watch for is plastic, as even mineral spirits will dissolve it - let alone anything hotter.

    For plastics use something specifically designed for it, or something like Simple Green, Bleche-White, brake fluid, etc.

    stiffer bristles do help a lot. Also the longer you soak the models the easier it is. I would be careful with metal bristles.

    Just FYI,

    Testor's makes a product called "Easy Lift Off," which will also remove most hobby paint. It's a bit expensive, but reusable.

    You can also use Wesley's "Bleche White" and simply leave the piece to soak for a while. I removed the chrome coating from a plastic capsule, and there was no damage to the surface at all.

    Where did you get that orc model?

    I love LOTR and I been looking for some.
    PLZ help me.

    And by the way.
    Nice job on the instructable.

    3 replies

    Unfortunately they raises the prices recently. I would try amazon.


    i love LOTR

    i can't wait to see your next instructables.

    This is a great tip. One question I do have is can this be done with the plastic miniatures that you use?

    1 reply

    This works with plastic and metal miniatures. I have not tried gw resin though.

    Sweet! Btw I love the uruk-hai!

    Nice. I've used automotive brake fluid to do this, but Simple Green is a lot cleaner, not to mention less toxic!

    Tip: You can also remove 'chrome' finish by soaking in ammonia.

    Great tips! I didn't know you could do this.